Posted: 11:50 p.m.
About 2,000 people jammed the Backstage Alley Friday afternoon to support the Bengals effort to raise funds for the victims of the tsunami disaster in American Samoa.
Three Bengals, American Samoa natives Domata Peko and Jonathan Fanene along with Rey Maualuga, son of Samoan parents, hosted the event that was part of the Bengals Bash in downtown Cincinnati. A total of 22 players showed to lend a hand with autographs and memorabilia that drew countless of donations.
"We'll find out how much tomorrow but it was an unbelievable turnout. I never thought we'd get that kind of crowd," Peko said Friday night. "I met five or six Samoans who live here that I had never met and there were Hawaiians and other Polynesians. They really came out and the people from all over Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky were great."
What may have impressed Peko more than anything is that "half the locker room" showed with the defensive line and linebackers leading the way. Fanene, who has missed the last two practices with an illness, stayed home to rest but his wife, Lori, attended.
"Even Dhani Jones was there," joked Peko of his middle linebacker. "He's a hard guy to get a hold of. Everybody wants him to do something."
But Peko was quite serious about the crowd.
"I can't thank the people of Cincinnati enough," Peko said. "It was so heartwarming and they came from all over. There were people that came all the way from Michigan. It's something to remember."